22% Of US Adults Have Arthritis: Let's Talk About Causes and How Can You Prevent It
Speaking Out: No One Living With Arthritis Is Alone
Getting a Diagnosis
I was mostly bedridden and sometimes needed a wheelchair over the next few months. Doctors prescribed the biologic Enbrel (etanercept), and it made me feel worse. I tried cortisone shots in my feet, and I took a lot of steroids and gained 20 pounds. I eventually got an appointment at the Mayo Clinic. The doctor there told me I had Still’s disease, which is a different way that juvenile arthritis onsets. Then they had me try the rheumatoid arthritis biologic drug Kineret (anakinra), and that was a huge turning point. I started taking injections every day, and I went from being bedridden to jogging in just a few months. I'm 28 now, and I’ve been taking it every day for 13 years. I also find that yoga is good for both my brain and my body. As is as having a sense of humor.Everythingis easier with a sense of humor.
Dealing With Flare-ups
I’ve been going through a rough patch lately. For the last two months, I’ve been having a flare-up. It has not been fun. The pain is mostly contained to my neck, but it runs down my spine and up into my skull. I have to lie down in the afternoons and evenings because my neck hurts so intensely. I’m going to see a new doctor to find out what my options are for switching medicines, in case that helps. I am a happy, bubbly person, but the discomfort can make you crazy when something normal like stubbing your toe happens, because your pain has already been active all day. I am not letting it overcome me, but it sucks, and it’s been hard.
Speaking Out About Arthritis
My major in college was public speaking, and I love connecting with people and having a platform. I live in Los Angeles, where I make my living off of acting — and it’s been wonderful — but I wanted to find a forum where I could do public service. I got in touch with the Arthritis Foundation, and they invited me to speak at the juvenile arthritis conventions this summer. It was a great experience. I loved meeting everyone and experiencing the truth that none of us is alone in dealing with this.
It’s really easy to go down the rabbit hole of, ‘Poor me, the victim.’ It’s fine to allow yourself to have feelings of, ‘Why me?’ but you can’t stay there. You have to push yourself to turn this situation into a positive.
Kindness Is Key
Having arthritis has made me a more accessible person. I know how hard it can be to walk in the shoes you’re in, and that’s made me more present and compassionate. And I have faith in God, which gives me hope. There will be good things to come, even when I don’t feel that way in the moment. I believe that there is another side of the coin of this disease, and that strengthens me to not feel sad for myself. I know I can overcome it.
I grew up in a broken family, and I know that hardship is a part of life. But it makes me enjoy the time I have with people and be kind to everyone I meet as I continue my journey toward health. When I was in high school, I remember my hand being so filled with arthritis that I couldn't open the heavy classroom door. But no one noticed me struggling, so the door slammed in my face, and I was stuck banging on the door hoping the teacher would hear to let me in. It's those memories that remind me to be aware of others, to show that extra moment of kindness, to extend a hand or a smile — whatever you can offer in that moment. Maybe someone with this disease can’t open a door or get out of a wheelchair, but we should treat everyone we meet as though they are a person of value regardless of the path they are walking.
Grace Bannon, an actress/comedian currently appearing on ABC’sThe Middle, was diagnosed with arthritis when she was just 15. She shares her experience with juvenile arthritis — and how she uses her hard-won wisdom to help inspire others.
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